February 15, 2015
From the jungles of deepest darkest Peru, British explorer Montgomery Clark discovers a family of special bears who can speak English and loved orange marmalade. He tells the bears that if ever they get to London, he will be more than happy to take them in. One day, after a strong earthquake causes the death of his beloved Uncle, a young bear decides to stowaway on a ship to go to London to find a better life for himself.
In London, a friendly family, the Browns, decide to take him in. They named the bear after the train station they found him in, Paddington. The father Henry is always wary of his family's safety, while the mother Mary is more welcoming and warm. The daughter Judy is a whiz with languages, while the son Jonathan is a genius with mechanical matters. While searching for the elusive Mr. Clark, Paddington crosses paths with Millicent, a sadistic taxidermist who wants to make him a stuffed bear, for more reasons than it would seem.
I only knew Paddington Bear as a piece of childhood trivia. I never really knew him, other than the fact that he was a cute little British teddy bear with a hat and overcoat. I have not read any of the books by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum, which was first published back in 1958.
This film was my first formal introduction to this beloved character and I clearly can see why he has endured through the years. He is truly adorable! His childlike innocence is heartwarming and delightful. It is to the credit of Xian Lim, who voiced Paddington in the local release. Lim does not really have a truly distinctive recognizable voice. However, more importantly, he was able to convey the most essential heart and spirit of Paddington. In the original British version, Paddington was voiced by Ben Whishaw. It appears they have a different voice actor per country of release, an interesting publicity gimmick.
Like "Roger Rabbit", "Space Jam" and "Garfield" before it, the animated Paddington here flawlessly interacts with live human actors. "Downton Abbey" actor Hugh Bonneville plays a stern but kind Henry Brown. "Happy Go Lucky" actress Sally Hawkins plays the quirky and happy Mary Brown, she who always wore red. Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin play the two Brown children. Two-time Oscar-nominated actress Julie Walters as plays Mrs. Bird, the loyal housekeeper of the Browns.
Nicole Kidman plays the cruel Millicent with so much evil relish, it is fun to watch her. Her final scene is hilarious! Other esteemed British actors fill out the other character roles. Jim Broadbent plays Samuel Gruber, friendly antique shop owner. Peter Capaldi plays the Brown's annoying neighbor, Mr. Curry. Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon provide the voices of Paddington's Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo back in Peru.
Be you a long-time fan or first time viewer, this "Paddington" will endear himself to you. His antics, mishaps and misadventures were so well-executed by director Paul King, who also wrote the script together with Hamish McColl. The timelessness of the story and characters is also reflected in the wonderful production design which incorporated elements from various decades seamlessly. Some moments as the story turns dark can be scary for very young kids so parental guidance is recommended.
Overall though, be prepared to enjoy and be enthralled this very charming piece of British comedy. You will leave the theater with a smile on your face. You will also want to whip up your own orange marmalade sandwich right away. 9/10.